Book Review: Journey To The Centre Of The Earth

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Continuing with the 30 books that I want to get to through before I’m struck down by the horrors of old age that await when I turn thirty, I decided to continue with Jules Verne’s Journey To The Centre of The Earth.

I’ve never really experienced writing quite like Jules Verne’s before, what the man does,  which is absolutely fantastic, is marry science fact with prose fiction, to give a fantastical tale which is sounds like it could be plausible. The story follows the adventures of a young man, his uncle, and a monosyllabic Icelander serving as their guide, from the summits of Iceland’s long dormant volcanoes right down through history its self to the very centre of the earth.

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The story is fairly fast paced and keeps the reader intrigued, as Jules Verne displays both scientific and literary aptitude, using a scientific and clinical terminology to serve as a prosaic tool, using science in place of simile to leave the reader right in the middle of this world.

It was a pretty short read, and I’m glad I picked this book to add to my list, as it was a narrow choice between this, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and Around The World In 80 Days, and these two works will undoubtedly wend their way on to my book case as some point in the future I’m sure.

Book Review: Frank Sinatra Has A Cold

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Something that I don’t really know about, as a genre or writing style, is the so called new journalism. Its not something that’s ever really appealed to me as a whole, but there are a few pieces that have caught my eye and so therefore have gone on the list of thirty books that I want to read before I’m 30 years old. One of the first pieces that made my list is Gay Talese’s piece Frank Sinatra Has A Cold, a fly on the wall profile of Frank Sinatra a few weeks before his fiftieth birthday and the events surrounding that milestone of birthday.

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New Journalism, as you probably know better than I, uses a more prose like form to convey the focus of the piece, relating anecdotes and often tangential narrative to make its over arching point. What Gay Talese does here is simple, he follows around Frank for a few days and talks to those around him, and just writes what he sees. One of the reasons that I wanted to read this piece is because I have always had a soft spot for the stories of the Rat Pack tearing up New York, L.A and Las Vegas and the special friendships that the patriarchal figure of Sinatra fostered throughout the 50’s and 60’s and that’s just it, Gay Talese talking to and relaying anecdotes from Sinatra’s family and inner circle, all while painting Sinatra as this mercurial, monarchic figure at the centre of his own massive kingdom.

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Its a pretty short read, I managed it in under an hour, but as it was originally in the pages of Esquire Magazine this explains away that, its well written and to the point, but without Talese ever receiving Sinatra’s cooperation, the story was published in April 1966, and while it probably isn’t what Talese originally set out to write about, it is probably the most in depth look at the life of Frank Sinatra ever published in the mans lifetime.

Book Review: The Time Machine

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I love time travel stories. This is the main reason Doctor Who is my favourite TV series. And H G Wells’ 1895 novella was one of the original works to come up with the idea. Whilst it doesn’t really look at the sort of paradoxical and ethical concerns of time travel it does look at the ideas of utopia and dystopia that have since become commonplace in fiction, but wells was one of the first to do it.

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Wells is often heralded as the father of modern science fiction with classics under his belt such as The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, and The First Men In The Moon. Its clear to see that Wells was a man who was blessed with both understanding of science and the workings of academia, as well as being equally blessed with a fantastic imagination. What must it of been like for a victorian to come up with the idea of time travel? To imagine what mankind would be like 800,000 years in the future? You can still smell the victorian ideals printed all over the page, both a spirit of exploration and of repression all rolled into one neat little package, tied up with a big helping of steampunkish industry to finish off the equation and make a fun little foray into the future.

What I would have liked about the book, and this is my only real criticism, is that I would have liked to see a more in depth look into the world of the future, without giving spoilers, I would like to have known how the human race had evolved from victorian values to the state of fearful tyranny between the Eloi and the Morlocks. Other than that the book was well written and the chapters weren’t all that long so it made for good bed time reading, and I’m glad to be able to say that I’ve read it.

 

Book Review: Three Men In A Boat

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Continuing to crack on with the 30 books that I want to read before I’m 30 I delved right into a copy of Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men In A Boat. I’ve written extensively on the works of Jerome K Jerome in the past particularly his Idle Thoughts Of An Idle Fellow.  So reading his most famous work was fairly high on my list.

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The plot of the novel is a fairly simple one three friends (and a dog) decide to go on a lads holiday, on a boat, up the Thames. The story is a fairly slow paced tale where not much happens, but the reader is treated to the delightful witticisms and pertinent insights of Mr Jerome all the way through, and for something that was published in 1889 some of the remarks are still just as true today. Things such as thinking you have every symptom of every disease you read about is still just as true today as it was yesteryear. Other things like the overwhelming urge people have to look at gravestones, I was so glad to find that I’m not the only one who doesn’t get the attraction, I mean it’s morbid and depressing. Jerome is right on the money and he does it in such a way that makes him one of the best, and sadly underrated writers of the victorian age.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I’m glad to have crossed it off my list.

Book Review: Animal Farm

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Continuing to crack on with the 30 books that I want to read before I’m 30 I picked up a secondhand edition of George Orwell’s 1945 novella Animal Farm.  Originally written at the height of the Second World War and at a time when Stalin and The USSR had come to be held in great esteem after joining the allied nations which was phenomenon that Orwell hated.

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The book focuses on the aftermath of a revolution in which a collective of farm animals unite in a common cause to expel their human master and seize the means of the production for themselves, in a manner reminiscent of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

The post revolution farm begins with contentment and satisfaction founded on lofty ideals under the leadership of the Pigs, but things start to turn sour when a cult of personality develops around the lead pig Napoleon, exiles and executions begin and the ideals that underpin communism (sorry animalism) are twisted to suit those that hold the power and that it actually moves back towards the original status quo, or a situation that is actually worse for the people (or in this case animals) the book really shows the development of almost every communist nation there has been, I mean you could retitle the book China From Mao To Now and you would see parallel development from glorious revolution towards oligarchial wealth hoarding for ruling elite.

One thing that did strike me was that in the modern world this would never happen, but I suppose that because of the level of education and the access to information that is available, if you can barely read and solely rely on the sate controlled media/ propaganda machine, you have little alternative but to believe what you are told, and thinking that this wouldn’t happen now is actually woefully naive as looking around at recent elections and referendums, it shows that stupid people will unquestioningly believe anything they read in the newspaper.

Orwell painted possibly the first real look at Stalin’s Russia and the abuses of power by those at the top and how it was worsening a country that would have no options but to expand outwards in order to satisfy its own excesses and the excesses of the ruling classes, and that the nation could go to hell as long as those who rule and the people that keep them there can keep their snouts in the trough.

Look out for more reviews from my Thirty Before 30 reading list coming soon. 

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Book Review: The Man Who Would Be King

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As one of the Thirty Books I wanted to read before I reach the dreaded milestone of 30 years of age, you can guess that Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King was something I was dying to get my teeth into. And you’d be right.  The Story itself originally published in 1888 is both a scathing look at colonialist tendency and also a rich satire mocking the English sense of entitlement regarding foreign land, and also pokes fun at the notion that Freemasons  actually run the world.

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The story centres around two soldiers of fortune turned con men who decide that life in India is not working out for them, and after failing in a scheme to blackmail a local Rajah decide to set themselves up as kings in the backwater nation of Kafiristan (northern Afghanistan) after swearing off women and liquor, they set off with a bunch of guns and manage to unite all the warring tribes of the region together through knowledge of Freemasonry,then acting as gods they rule the country benevolently until they are are brought low.

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Historic Kafiristan- Highlighted in Green

Kipling, in a short space of words, manages to set the scene of the British Raj and the inhospitable climes of Afghanistan, and offers up a fair summation of the contemporary political climate of warfare that was rampant in the Afghan provinces of the time (much like today) and also captures perfectly the attitude of the common Englishman of the time, that the world was theirs for the taking and damn anyone who got in the way. Its also a work about friendship and the perils that blind devotion to ones friends can bring. Spolier warning I did cry at the end, which is odd because having seen the classic film adaptation featuring Michael Cane and Sean Connery I knew how the book was going to end, and it says a lot about Kipling’s writing that it brought a tear to my eye.

Look out for more reviews from my Thirty Before 30 coming soon

 

30 Before I’m Thirty (Books)

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I’m going to be thirty in just over 2 years and at this moment in time I’m OK with that (how I feel about it in 10 minuets is up for debate) but one of the things that I realised is that there are a fair few things I still want to accomplish whilst the career and social goals are somewhat out of my control things like films I want to see, albums I want to listen to and books I want to read are very much in my control, especially as I have 25 months to accomplish it. Here is a list of the books that I would like to have read by the time I’m thirty.

A Princess of Mars- Edgar Rice Burroughs 

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War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy 

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Ulysses- James Joyce 

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The Iliad- Homer

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Journey To The Centre of the Earth- Jules Verne 

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Frank Sinatra Has A Cold- Gay Talese 

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Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog)- Jerome K Jerome

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The Time Machine- H.G Wells

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Lolita- Vladimir Nabokov

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Animal Farm- George Orwell

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The Last Of The Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper

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The Man Who Would Be King- Rudyard Kipling 

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Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson 

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Stardust- Neil Gaiman

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A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court- Mark Twain

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Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years- Sue Townsend 

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The Fight-Norman Mailer 

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The Turn Of The Screw-Henry James

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The Stand- Stephen King

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Notes Of A Dirty Old Man- Charles Bukowski 

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Children Of Hurin- J.R.R Tolkein 

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Idylls Of The King- Alfred Tennyson

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Confessions of an English Opium Eater-Thomas de Quincey

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Little Women- Louisa May Alcott 

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A Little History Of The World- E.H Gombrich 

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The Mysterious Affair At Styles- Agatha Christie 

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Who Censored Roger Rabbit- Gary K Wolf

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Zen And The Art Of Motor Cycle Maintenance-  Robert M. Pirsig

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The Day Of The Triffids- John Wyndham 

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Winds of Winter- George R.R. Martin (Because surely this’ll be finished before the TV series)

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How many of these do you think I’ll get done before July 21st 2019?